The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.
Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though childlike form.
The flames roll'd on...he would not go
Without his father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.
He call'd aloud..."Say, father, say
If yet my task is done!"
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.
"Speak, father!" once again he cried
"If I may yet be gone!"
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames roll'd on.
Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death,
In still yet brave despair;
And shouted but one more aloud,
"My father, must I stay?"
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud
The wreathing fires made way,
They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And stream'd above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.
There came a burst of thunder sound...
The boy-oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea.
With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part;
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart.
-- Felicia Dorothea Hemans
"FIRE!" Caddis and Thaduk's simultaneous cries echoed across the deck. "Fire in Quarters!"
Within moments their cries were drowned out by the thump of dozens of feet and numerous other cries from the crew running to the foredeck, buckets of sand and sea-water in hand. The already damaged and blood-streaked door of the officer's quarters was kicked open, and soon everyone was working furiously to put out the fire.
Walking out, but leaving the boat, Thaduk saw that the entire crew, officers and fuming captain included, were assembled on deck. He immediately walked over to Mr. Plugg, the first mate, and said, in hushed tones, "It looks like someone left a lantern burning in the officer's quarters."
Mr. Plugg's face went white as he realized that he was the last one to exit the quarters before dinner and the Bloody Hour. In a rare moment of brilliance, Thaduk caught upon the officer's clear distress and offered him a way out. "I saw someone wearing a tricorne hat leaving just before dinner..." Mr. Plugg's face lit up at the realization that someone else could take the fall in what was, without question, a death sentence. At Caddi's mental prodding Thaduk added, "He saw them too...", indicating Caddis should talk before the dumb orc slipped up in his lying.
Mr. Plugg pushed the two Moonplummers towards the captain. "Sir! These two claim they saw something..."
"Well! What was it?!" the captain bellowed.
Picking up on Thaduk's earlier implication, Caddis whirled, fixed Peppery Longfarthing with his evil-eye, and leveled a finger strait at her. "She left the lantern burning in the officer's quarters!" Rummy, Adriana, and Leopold all chimed in, adding a chorus of "Aye, we saw her!" At a glare from Mr. Plugg, Master Scourge also agreed that she was the culprit. Despite the fact that they were implicating the ship's Sailing Master, and the possibly ridiculousness of a skilled sorceress needing to use a lamp, the captain believed them.
"Grab her!" the captain yelled. Thaduk charged the sorceress, but she flowed away from his attack like water. Panicked, she began chanting the words to a lightning bolt spell, but was disrupted by Rummy hitting her right between the eyes with a thrown mug.
In the blink of an eye, the captain vanished, reappearing directly behind Ms. Longfarthing. His blade lashed out twice in rapid succession, the first running through Tam Tate, possibly by accident, or more likely just in a murderous fury. He withdrew the blade, now wreathed in red-black flames, and plunged it into the sorceress's back. As he withdrew it again for a final, killing blow, she stumbled forward and sprinted for the far rail. Only to be beaten down by Adriana, Rummy, and Caddis, using whatever they could get their hands on, and finished off by a blow from Leopold's terrifying sword.
The captain stalked forward, pulled the already dead Peppery up by her hair, and swiftly decapitated her. "Strip her and throw her over the side..." he said, in a voice that betrayed as much disappointment as anger. He then stormed away and vanished back into his cabin.
With no more specific orders, the party divided up Ms. Longfarthing's gear and chucked her body and severed head overboard. The startled crew, meanwhile retired to their bunks or settled in on the deck, some muttering angrily about the death of the relatively well-liked Sailing Master. A few minutes later, the master gunner, Riaris Krine came out of the captain's quarters carrying a bundle. "Captain said to return the weapons we confiscated from you..." she said, dropping it at their feet.
Caddis withdrew belowdecks to inspect and identify the items taken from Ms. Longfarthing, as well as a few items they'd brought with them from Moonplum Village, including Thaduk's bugle, Adriana's gunblade, and Caddis' rose.
Up on deck, Leopold and Rummy returned to their stations, having volunteered for the night-watch. Leopold sang to pass the time, while hanging out in the rigging, while Rummy stood watch. After another hour, Rummy noticed tiny lights in the distance. He whistled to Leopold, who confirmed that they looked like the lights on another ship.
Rummy ran to the Officer's quarters, where the remaining officers were busy cleaning up and repairing the mess caused to their space by the fire and the efforts to put it out -- not to mention the harpoon going through the door, the (mostly washed-away) blood stains, the tampered-with chests, the discarded jolly-boat, and the burned bedding. He got a few angry and suspicious looks, until he mentioned the lights. The officers rushed on deck and Mr. Plugg confirmed the sighting with a shout of "Ship ahoy!"
Master Scourge whistled for "all hands". Captain Herrera came on deck, ordering the lights doused and a pursuit course set, then looked around with the same look of rage and disappointment at having so recently murdered his Sailing Master and helmsman. Leopold swung down from the rigging and grabbed the wheel, whirling it easily into a pursuit course and earning an appreciated almost-smile from the captain.
Even with Leopold's expertise at the helm, with no sorceress to conjure wind into their sails, the chase was a long one. By morning the distant ship had spotted them and put up full sail. Leopold led the crew in a rousing chorus to keep their spirits up and stave off fatigue.
Finally, nearly thirty hours after Rummy first spotted the ship, they came within firing distance. The Red Sadness's cannon tore into the target ship's sails and splinted its mizzenmast, slowing it to a crawl. "Bring us alongside Mister Burton! Prepare for boarding!" Captain Herrera cried. He then stalked up to Caddis, "Go get Fishguts, tell him I want three hogs slaughtered to chum the waters, we don't want any of them drowning..."
As Caddis ran to deal with the pigs, Riaris Krine came back to where the rest of the party had assembled on the poop deck near the wheel. "Thaduk," she said, calling them over. "The ship’s wheel is on the aft deck, just below the sterncastle. Grapple over, kill the guards on the sterncastle, take the wheel, and guard the ship’s boats. Kill anyone who tries to get away on one of the boats. Don’t move from the wheel until the fighting’s done, or you’ll have to answer to me. Pick any two crewmen to take with you...”
There was some lively debate as to who the party should take with them to take the sterncastle. Sandara Quinn, as a healer they could mostly trust, was the obvious choice. The other was greatly debated, but they finally decided on taking Henrye, figuring that if things went poorly they could 'accidentally' knock him into the shark-infested waters to get rid of the troublesome wanna-be do-gooder.
Leopold held the wheel and ran the Sadness alongside the other ship, close enough that their hauls scraped with the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. Captain Herrera and the rest of the crew were across in moments, laying in to the enemy sailors. When the sterncastles came abreast, Thaduk picked up and hurled the Sadness' second jolly-boat, knocking three of the sailors guarding the sterncastle into the sea.
The remaining defenders returned fire with heavy crossbows, injuring Leopold. Caddis and Rummy fired back with crossbows of their own, then Sandara blanketed the enemy ship's deck with thick fog. Thaduk leaped the rail and impaled one of the sailors with a spear. Then Caddis had an idea...
"Thaduk! Get back aboard, we're taking the ship..." he messaged, to the orc and both of his (conveniently named) uncles. He signaled to Leopold to steer the Sadness away from the other ship, a not-unreasonable thing to do in the circumstances, now that battle was joined on the other deck. Leopold spun the wheel and struck up a song to inspire his comrades...
Sandara blasted one of the last two sailors in the sterncastle away from where they were attacking Thaduk. Thaduk spotted Captain Herrera engaged with two of the enemy officers through a break in the fog and hit the remaining defender with a powerful uppercut, sending him hurtling into the captain's back, before leaping the rail back onto the Sadness.
As the Sadness pulled away from the other ship, the other two Thaduks, as well as a few other crewmen broke off from combat and made running leaps for the ship. The Sot landed on the Sadness, but the Smith fell into the water. Thaduk looked back to see his uncle treading water and beating off sharks with his hammer. He rushed down to the officer's quarters, grabbed the very last jolly-boat (the one he'd been using to haul water) and hurled it to his uncle.
Rummy ran across the deck and cut a line, releasing the main topsail and using the falling spar as a counterweight to carry him up into the rigging where he quickly and masterfully tied the sail off. Leopold spun the wheel and the ship caught a strong easterly wind, speeding it away from the battle.
Meanwhile, on deck, two shots rang out, accompanied by a string of curses. Riaris Krine, who had been manning the fore-cannon, was stalking across the deck, pistols out and firing at Rummy and the other mutineers. Caddis, locked eyes with her and, with a flourish, somehow one of the bullets that had been hurtling toward Rummy appeared harmlessly in his hand, still burning hot from the flight. Focusing his evil eye, he charmed the master gunner.
Riaris quickly rounded up Thaduk and Thaduk the Sot to haul the long nine from the forecastle to the poop deck. Once set up, one carefully aimed shot put a hole in the other vessel, right at the water line. The other ship began to sink...
In a flash Captain Herrera appeared in the jolly boat with Thaduk Smith. The Smith swung his hammer, taking the captain in the kneecap before he was stabbed through the heart himself. Riaris took aim and hit the jolly boat with a second shot from the cannon, blowing it to flinders.
With the other ship crippled and sinking, Captain Herrera lost in the smoke and debris, and a stiff wind in their sails, our heroes made off with their stolen ship...
Crew who made it back aboard the Red Sadness:
Thaduk the Sot